Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and renowned for its mouthwatering and flavorful northern Thai dishes – most of which are vegetarian and vegan friendly! Furthermore, it’s a city rich of culture, fantastic nightlife and breathtaking landscapes only minutes out of the old town.
After living in Chiang Mai, we’ve narrowed down the best of what this city has to offer far from the typical tourist trail. Check out our top places below and things to do in Chiang Mai as a local!
With its bohemian vibe, lush greenery all around and cozy atmosphere; you feel as though you’ve come home the second you’ve arrived at Taja Guesthouse. The guesthouse offering private rooms equipped with a private bathroom, hot water showers, a large kitchen, living room and plenty of space to hangout in the garden with the cutest dog named Yogi and their chicken named Buck.
Address: Wiangbua Soi 4, Tambon Chang Phueak, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat
(You no longer have to succumb to drinking Thailand local beer ‘Chiang’ that tastes like water and produces the not so sweetest hangover the next morning.)
With that said, Chiang Mai has recently had craft bars popping up and our favorite go-to is My BEER Friend Market. It’s as cheap as chips and a mere 200 baht for a pint of premium stout, IPA and others on tap.
Northgate Jazz Co-Op is easily the best Jazz bar in Chiang Mai. This tiny 2 level bar hosts incredibly talented musicians who know how to get the crowd going. You’ll sing, you’ll dance in the streets and you’ll have the night of your life!
If you love live music and a cozy ambiance, Boy Blues Bar is the place for you! Every night there are live bands, the place is packed and brings nothing but good vibes!
Address: (Located in the Night Bazzar) Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai District
For an unusual night out, visit Ram Bar every Wednesday to Saturday to experience one of the best cabaret shows in town. Buy one drink and enjoy the show for free at 10:30. A must for anyone visiting Chiang Mai!
One of the best-hidden gems in Chiang Mai is a cozy local bar hosting live acoustic performances every night, a pool table and reasonably priced drinks with the coolest people in town.
Thailand loves their markets and we all do too! Here you can practice your bartering skills without offence and load up on everything under the sun from local artisan crafts, clothing, souvenirs and an overload of delicious street eats.
Opposite the Chiang Mai Gate, you can find an assortment of beautiful handcrafted works of art as well as an abundance of street snacks. Open from 4-11pm every Saturday.
One of the most famous markets is the 1km long Sunday night market open from 4pm-8pm every Sunday.
For all your shopping needs, wander through the night Bazar from 6pm-10: 30pm every night and get ready to barter for the best prices!
Come as early as 5am to Chiang Mai’s largest food market stretching for miles. From fresh produce to unusual delicacies such as turtles, frogs and more – Mueang Market is a real look into local life and a great spot for street photography.
Chose between a selection of noodles and various types of Tom Yum including a whole squid, white fish, meats or vegetarian.
Tom Yum is a spicy and sour Thai soup. The broth is made of stock and fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chili peppers accompanied by your chosen protein.
Price: 60 Baht
Address: Near the corner of Arak Road & Suthep Road
Were addicted to Northern Thailand’s famous dish Khao Soi and although we’ve ate it any chance we’ve got, the #1 spot for us is still Khao Soi Mai Sai.
The dish is made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles, boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chilies in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk. (Meat or vegetarian available)
Price: 35 Baht.
Address: 29/1 Ratchaphuek Alley
Tucked away on a side street, be sure to try the vegan Black Sesame Noodles at Gunya. Everything on the menu is vegetarian but the best is their Black Sesame Noodle.
Address: Side street of Tanin Market
This local stand makes a delicious and cheap noodle dish that is a favorite amongst locals. Be sure to come in the early afternoon to try their Rice Noodles in Fish Curry Sauce.
Price: 20 Baht
Address: On the corner of Chang Phuak Soi 2
Only open late at night or very early mornings is one of the best Thai breakfasts you need to try before leaving Chiang Mai. This rice porridge is referred too as “joke” and made up of short grain rice that is boiled until is has an oatmeal texture with an egg cracked in the middle, your choice of meat and various seasonings such as crispy seaweed, ginger, spring onions, parsley, black pepper and chili flakes.
You can find many street vendors who sell this; otherwise the best restaurant is Jok Sompet.
Price: 25 Baht.
We could tell you all about the temples, the touristic restaurants or the slew of places already well-trodden around Chiang Mai – however, below are the top hidden gems and a must see while in and around the city.
A hidden gem near Chiang Mai University is one of the most beautiful displays of Traditional Thai art as well as the world’s largest wooden Ganesh (made of teak wood, 3 floors high and weighing 5 tons).
You could easily spend hours wandering around the premises watching artists restore ancient art or standing in awe at the beautiful works from floor to ceiling created by local artists.
Open: every day 9–5pm (free entry)
Unknown to most travellers is one of the most relaxing spots to hangout outside of the city. On a warm and sunny day, hangout along the crystal clear lake in your own wooden hut and sip on an ice-cold beer. Make sure to try the fried frog legs and water mimosa while you’re here! (Sounds weird but trust us, it’s incredible!)
Entrance Fee: 50 Baht
One of the most magical Buddhist temples is located 15 minutes outside of the old town in a lush jungle and involves a leisurely 40minute hike to the temple. No crowds, lush greenery all around and a stunning temple to match. If you can only visit one; this is it!
The view from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on a clear day is one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the city. Sunrise is the best time to watch the city come alive and trust us; it’s worth losing a bit of sleep for.
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